Archive | May, 2017

How financial instability and undocumented citizenship hone my problem solving skills

9 May

Note: This blog post was written by an undergraduate student in San Francisco. 

There have been many times where the stress of financial instability has fogged up my mind and kept me from studying, working on assignments, or attending class. There are days I feel so hopeless all I can do is stay in bed and wallow in my penniless state of being.

In the future see myself in a research lab

However, that is not how you achieve a PhD degree. Ambition gets me through those dark times, as long and dark as they may be, discovery keeps me intrigued and in school. In the future see myself in a research lab, at a colloquium, or a seminar discussing findings with my colleagues, having a regular office job is simply not an option. That is the reason I am here, that is the reason my family stayed in America way past their wishes, so I could attend an American college and pursue my dreams.

How will I pay my rent, what’s free to eat?

Coming into my third year here at SF State, I completely lost any stable source of income. This is due to my undocumented status. I am Dreamer, and recently my work permit expired, leaving me with no chance at attaining a job. Studying biology while lacking funds really makes college much more complicated. Daily stress accumulates from sources like how will I pay my rent, what’s free to eat, or when is that next assignment due. 8-hour school days with no money to buy coffee or spending 5 hours on one question when you can easily get help from a Chegg subscription are constant reminders of my current situation. I have not been able to afford a textbook for years, and the luxury of new school supplies is one that stayed in high school. You cannot take out student loans as a Dream Student, nor can you borrow money from banks when you have no credit and illegal citizenship status. I leave my house and risk the chance that I might get deported. Some might say I should be a lot more stressed then I am, but I personally believe that you make your own reality, and suffering is not part of mine.

I will make discoveries one day

So how is it that I survive? Sometimes I think have to work twice as hard to figure out those extra problems that come with being financially strapped. How will I print my essay without any money to use the printers? Sometimes I secretly sneak into the biology graduate lab and print what I need to print. How will I afford the lab manual and supplies I need for lab? You ask everyone you know while searching Facebook book trade groups for hours until you find what you need. How do you pay for the bus is you don’t have the fare? Bus drivers usually let you on if you put whatever’s in your pocket in the machine. There’s a billion ways to make canned chicken taste good. If you message ticket scalpers the day of you might be able to score free tickets to the concert. I may not be able to afford a new laptop at the moment, but I will be the one discovering models for gene regulation and health disparities one day. When there’s a will there are ways. I can testify to the notions that anything is possible if you just believe the outcome to be plausible. The most creatively brilliant ideas sprout when you have no choice but to think outside of the box.

I know I will be a good research scientist

For all the reasons described above, I know I will be such a good research scientist; I have been forced to think outside the box when traditional methods will not work for my situation. The confidence that I will love and excel in my career keeps me in school rather than searching for financial stability. My problem solving skills have reached an extremely high level. Finding money to survive has been tricky, but it has taught me a lot about problem solving, appreciating what I have, and realizing what I truly need.